Anatomy of a WurliTzer Theatre Pipe Organ

Pipe chest restoration begins.

The next parts to come to hand were the Bourdon offset chests. Fortunately the first installment of leather arrived, only 15 months after I had first tried to get it, before I had completed the preparation stage on the first chest so I was actually able to complete the reassembly of the first part.

What was the biggest surprise when I opened the first chest was how clean it was. There was no coal dust coating everything as seems to be common in most instruments. That says something about the benefits of living out in rural areas all your life instead of in big dirty cities. It sure makes it nicer to work on.

The leather looked like it would last for a few more years but I decided to stay with my original intention to rebuild and replace everything and not be tempted to take any short cuts.

Some screws were rusted and otherwise damaged and some screw holes were stripped. Finding replacement screws was a problem. Most screws available today are not as well made as the originals. I seems that screw distributors in Australia have decided that no one has any need for round headed wood screws anymore so it is very difficult to get what is needed. Sometimes it has been possible to get the right size screw in brass when it is not available in steel. I have had to resort to getting screws from the US. The problem with having an assortment of old, new, steel and brass screws is that it ends up looking a mess. To overcome this I chose to make all the screws look the same by painting all the heads black, with a rust inhibiting epoxy enamel paint. This added a little more time to things. Each screw head, and washer, is sanded back to clean metal before being painted. Holding the round headed screws in the chuck of a cordless drill and spinning them is a lot easier and safer than trying to hold the screw and apply it to moving sand paper. It does make things look a lot better and it should prevent rust from appearing again for a while.

The two 6-note Bourdon chests each took 70-80 hours.



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